Researchers develop innovative solar shade to improve buildings’ energy efficiency

Sept. 1, 2019

A new solar shade system in development at Princeton University could reduce energy use by 50% in buildings.

The system aims to provide energy savings by altering building façades to adapt to changing sunlight throughout the day. The shades — inspired by the biomechanics of insect-trapping plants — would maximize occupant comfort through temperature control and maintain a constant level of interior daylight, saving operational building energy.

With buildings accounting for nearly 40% of U.S. energy consumption, new energy-efficient technologies are in high demand.

The technology consists of flexible plastic sheets actuated by shape-memory alloy wires that contract in response to an electrical current. When current is applied, the wires bend the plastic sheet so that it lifts and rotates.

On the outside of a glass building, these sheets would be oriented to follow the sun, providing optimal light and shade conditions inside. Additionally, the system is cost-effective compared to competing solutions, since it does not require expensive materials, mechanical hinges or motors.

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